20th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil held at Harvey Milk Park in downtown Long Beach


Kristen Naeem | Signal Tribune

Attendees of the Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil held at Harvey Milk Park on Nov. 20 holding candles as the names of transgender people who passed away in the last year are read aloud.

A candlelit vigil was organized by the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance at Harvey Milk Park in downtown Long Beach on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

The first Transgender Day of Remembrance was held in Boston, Massachusetts in 1999 in remembrance of the unsolved murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts. The day has since grown and is now observed in cities across the nation every Nov. 20.

The vigil at Harvey Milk Park included comments by public officials and members of the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, who organized the event, as well as American Sign Language interpreters.

First District Councilmember elect Mary Zendejas spoke at the event and promised to be an ally for the transgender community in city council.

“I just want to say thank you for being here,” Zendejas said to the crowd. “And to my transgender brothers and sisters that are her tonight, please know that you do have a champion in me, and that I will always be an ally [to] you and I will join you in that fight because there are too many lives that have already been lost, and not one of them are we ready to dismiss like that, not one of those lives. So we have to come together as a community and move forward and learn from our mistakes, and make sure that our elected officials move forward with us.”

Following Zendejas, 2nd District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce approached the stage and spoke about the courage of the transgender community, as well as the economic inequality it often suffers from.

“Today is our 20th anniversary of remembering our transgender friends, and I want to do more than remember them,” Pearce said. “I want to recognize why we’ve lost so many. We’ve lost so many because they’ve been role models to the rest of us, whether we’re trans, whether we’re part of the LGBT community. They are people who have lived their lives true to themselves. It’s so awful [that] some of us struggle to live our lives true to ourselves. And so I want to not only remember, I want to take a step back and learn from their courage. And often that courage means they find themselves in economic hardships. We consider why we lose so many lives. Often those whose lives we’ve lost, were people who lived in poverty, that have struggled to try to be true to themselves at work. And so today, with Trump in office, think about how much courage it takes sometimes every single day in the fight against injustice, against racism [and] against economic oppression.”

Kristen Naeem | Signal Tribune
Volunteers lined up to read aloud the names of transgender individuals who have died since last November at Harvey Milk Park on Nov. 20.

Candles were distributed and lit while volunteers lined up to read the names of transgender people who have died since November 2018. It was noted that while many of these individuals’ death certificates and police reports refer to them by their birth name and assigned gender, their preferred names and genders were used during the reading. The ages, race and place of death of each individual was also listed, with the youngest victim this year being 17 years old.

The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach’s Transgender Health and Engagement Specialist, Mallery Robinson came onstage to talk about her experiences as a transgender woman, “As a trans woman, I know what it is like to be afraid of the potential violence we may face by the hands of others. As we gather here today, I want to say that we are enough. We are more than enough, we are exceptional, unique and beautifully made.”

Robinson told the crowd that her own parents, classmates, friends and teachers had been supportive of her when she began her transition at 16 in her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama and this showed her not to expect people to be hateful.

Near the end of the night, a board member of the City of Los Angeles’ Transgender Advocacy Council, Jazzmun Nichcala, invited all the transgender attendees of the vigil to the front of the stage to be recognized by the community.

“We are not alone,” Nichala said.